- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) comes home to his Manhattan apartment building to discover a strange man (Jeff Bridges) asking questions about his life. Despite some trepidation, Thomas entertains the man in his apartment. A tentative, but genuine, talk begins.

It will be the first of many such conversations between Thomas and Mr. Bridges’ W.F Gerald, a reclusive writer who takes an interest in the young man both for his writing and for the potential he sees in him. Or is it because he needs to a subject to write something new? Or is there something more?

From this oddball beginning comes the new film “The Only Living Boy in New York,” a somewhat ungainly title for this excellent movie written by Allen Loeb (“Collateral Beauty”) and directed by Marc Webb (“The Amazing Spider-Man”) that has more up its sleeve than you will realize, but does not go about it in a sly or condescending way.

Which is an especially major accomplishment given that, in an early scene, Thomas discovers that his corporate suit of a publisher father Ethan (Pierce Brosnan) is cheating on his mother (Cynthia Nixon) with an English lass named Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). Rather than confront Ethan, Thomas appoints himself detective and spy, pursuing Johanna about New York in scenes that might make both Hitchcock and Dashiell Hammett proud.

Curiosity becomes obsession; watching becomes stalking. Thomas decides he must meet her.

To reveal anymore of the plot would be unkind. The film proceeds in a straightforward, economic fashion in its trim 89 minutes. You will think it is going in one direction — and it does — but then it takes a U-turn that is both appropriate and surprising. Thomas learns as much about his family as he does about Johanna — and himself.

The filmmakers even have time to toss in a well-engineered subplot involving Thomas‘ best friend Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), whom he finds attractive and would gladly date, but who doesn’t see him “in that way.” It’s a dynamic that is only possible in your twenties, and Mr. Loeb and Mr. Webb successfully incorporate the young quasi-couple’s dynamic into the greater arc of the film’s progression. This too, will not end up where you think, but where it must.

It’s a rather hefty emotional load for an hour and a half, but “The Only Living Boy in New York” is realized with such skill and precision that it manages to accomplish all of its lofty goals, with characters who are real, human, flawed and, just like the rest of us, have to make mistakes along the way.

One of the year’s best films.

Opening Friday in the District.

Rated R. Contains profanity suitable for Gotham and some sexual situations.

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